Today in Ottawa: The Beginning of a “Terrorist” Witch-hunt?


I am now in an official bureaucratic lock down after this morning events in Ottawa. Although accounts are scattered, media outlets report that there was a shooting in downtown Ottawa in the Parliament area. Very close to home, there were shootings by the library in Parliament and the Rideau Centre (a mall few meters away from Parliament).

Shooting Locations- Via The Globe and Mail.

Shooting Locations- Via The Globe and Mail.

Whereas information is unclear, within the bureaucracy we are already talking about “terrorism.” With Canada recently sending troops to fight ISIL and a current event, in which a “radical” (as some Muslim youth are called now) ran over a Canadian soldier, this is slowly but surely becoming a matter of “the terrorist threat.”

Prime Minister Harper has not commented, perhaps because the issue is still going on. But the bureaucracy has not lost any time. The statements are ready and crisis has been boiled down to make a political point on Canada’s priorities and the upcoming election. If we were all as cynical as many of us were post 9/11, we would wonder if this was not an auto-attack? But In Canada we don’t think like that. And after members of the Canadian forces have been shot or killed, this would even be an offensive suggestion.

The issue is that my Facebook and Twitter feeds already show the first effects of this crisis. “Visible minorities” are now terrified of what the aftermath will look like. With a witness describing one of the gunmen as wearing an “Arabic scarf,” we now suspect that there will be a tight connection between the previous attacks in Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu, the shootings today and the radicalization of Muslims.

A recent handbook on the radicalization of Muslims was released by leaders of Muslim communities across the country, but funded by the RCMP. Not surprisingly, we are not all happy of thankful for such an “informative” piece. Instead, some of us feel extremely uncomfortable with the notion of “collective responsibility,” something I wrote about for Muslimah Media Watch.

What is more, when we talk about “terrorism” or “extremism” we talk about only the responsibility of those who perpetrate terrorist acts. We discuss the dos and don’ts of religious traditions and wonder whether or not Canada is (and should be) immune to terrorist attacks. There is no constructive dialogue about why people may engage in the use of violence, the broader context or the policies and institutional circumstances that may force one to carry on with these activities. We don’t talk about poverty, the profiling and criminalization of “coloured” youth, the lack of social support and the violence perpetrated about communities of colour by institutional and political bodies. But in the West we would never call State-led attacks on civilians through physical, political or legal means “terrorism,” that just seems to be beyond our understanding…

But all this to say, that this may be an important day to note for future reference. As we all wonder what will happen to minorities and Muslim communities after this craziness is settled, many of us are now preparing for intensified “business as usual”: racial/ethnic/religious profiling, “Us vs. Them” talk, more criminalization and less safety for women and men of colour in Canada.